As the Oakland Board of Education moves ahead with its search for a new superintendent of schools, members of the community are continuing to push for a more transparent hiring process.
Local groups are calling on the school board to open up the historically secretive selection of a new superintendent and to pick a new school leader who is from Oakland and committed to staying in the position for five or more years.
Recent Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) superintendents have stayed on the job for less than three years.
There has also been widespread agreement among speakers who have attended public engagement meetings that they want a superintendent who is not connected to a “corporate” school privatizing organization, such as the Broad Foundation, but who has a track record of listening to the community and prioritizes serving the majority of Oakland students, who are Black, Latino and often have special needs.
As of a few days ago, about 35 potential candidates had taken out applications papers, according to district officials. Applications had to be submitted by Wednesday of this week.
“We’re expecting to get a good group of candidates,” said School Board President James Harris in an interview with the Post last week. “We are aggressively seeking Latino candidates, who might otherwise not hear about the job. We’re getting a good influx of African American candidates. We’re look for some rock stars out there.”
He said the potential applicants include experienced superintendents from around the Bay Area and California.
According to Harris, over 1,000 people had completed an online survey on what qualities they want to see in a superintendent.
“It shows the level of interest that people have,” he said. “It’s more than ever before.”
One of the organizations that has been taking an active role in the superintendent selection process is State of Black Oakland (SOBO), whose education workgroup recently held community-based interviews with three superintendent candidates, attended by 70 people.
“We’re trying to short circuit the usual corporate selection process,” said Noni Session of SOBO. “They hire someone without knowledge of the community, and the person leaves in less than three years. This is a national problem.”
She also added, “this is not the way to get stable schools and a stable district.”
Sessions said SOBO is working “to get a local Black or Latino superintendent.”
Victor Martinez of the Latino Education Network (LEN) said his organization wants the search for a new superintendent to include qualified school administrators from throughout the Southwest.
“We don’t want that to be an artificial barrier to others who are qualified to apply and should not be discouraged,” he said. “We’re more likely to find a Latino if we look more broadly.”
“(Whether Latino or not), we need someone who has worked with the large Latino populations, like in Oakland, and has demonstrated success.”
According to a statement issued by LEN, Latinos make up the largest group of students in OUSD, but the school district has historically not met the needs the needs of Latino and English Learner Students, most of whom come from low-income families. Nor has the district hired a fair representation of Latino educators or other employees.
“The failure to hire Latinos and include Latinos in decisions and policy leaves Latinos disenfranchised and out of crucial educational benefits,” the statement said.
Pecolia Manigo, executive director of Parent Leadership Action Network, has been working hard to bring together organizations in Justice for Oakland Students Coalition.
The coalition has been circulating a petition to seek a district leader who “will bring a vision and system-wide plan for real results for African-American, Latino, and all high-need students, based on the priorities set by students and families; (and) will ensure budget equity by prioritizing direct funding to schools, not in high salaries in central office.”
The petition, which already has 3,200 signatures, is available here.
Participants in the coalition include Oakland Kids First, Black Organizing Project (BOP) and Parents United for Public Education.
“We are actively organizing to have a different type of OUSD superintendent search because we believe that OUSD needs a leader who will feel and take action to be accountable to students of color—the majority of OUSD students,” said Manigo.